Top Asian News at 9:30 a.m. GMT

Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Nearly 300 people were still missing Wednesday several hours after a ferry carrying 459, most of them high school students, sank in cold waters off South Korea's southern coast, killing at least two and injuring seven, officials said. There were fears, however, of a big jump in the death toll, as dozens of boats, helicopters and divers scrambled to rescue passengers who had been on the ferry traveling to the southern tourist island of Jeju. One passenger said he believed that many people were trapped inside the ferry when it sank.

PERTH, Australia (AP) — As a robotic submarine dove into the ocean to look for lost Flight 370, angry Chinese relatives stormed out of a teleconference meeting Wednesday to protest the Malaysian government for not addressing them in person. The Bluefin 21 sub surfaced early for the second time in as many missions, this time after experiencing technical difficulties. It was sent back underwater after its data were downloaded but there's been no sign of the plane yet, according to the joint agency coordinating the search.

BEIJING (AP) — Since Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 went missing, some lawyers have claimed they can get several millions of dollars in damages for each lost passenger by taking the cases to the United States. But past lawsuits show U.S. federal courts are more likely to throw such cases out if the crashes happened overseas. Major disasters draw lawyers looking to sign up clients for big lawsuits, and the missing Malaysian plane, which was carrying mostly Chinese passengers, has been no exception. Lawyers from various firms have descended on a Beijing hotel where relatives of the passengers have been staying, and have even traveled around China to visit them in their homes.

BEIJING (AP) — China's economic growth slowed further in the latest quarter but appeared strong enough to satisfy Chinese leaders who are trying to put the country on a more sustainable path without politically dangerous job losses. The world's second-largest economy grew 7.4 percent from a year earlier in the January-March quarter, down from the previous quarter's 7.7 percent, government data showed Wednesday. It matched a mini-slump in late 2012 for the weakest growth since the 2008-09 global crisis.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Despite having little history of domestic terrorism, New Zealand and Australia were drawn into the global debate on drone strikes Wednesday after confirming that a citizen from each country was killed in Yemen last year. New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said the men were killed during a November counter-terror drone strike along with three known al-Qaida operatives. He said the New Zealander had been watched by intelligence agencies and had first attended some kind of terrorist training camp.

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The leader of Australia's most populous state quit as premier on Wednesday in the face of mounting evidence that he failed to declare a 3,000 Australian dollar ($2,800) bottle of wine that arrived as a gift on his Sydney doorstep. New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell had told a corruption inquiry on Tuesday that he never received a bottle of 1959 Penfolds Grange Hermitage as a gift from businessman Nick Di Girolamo congratulating him weeks after his 2011 election win.

NEW DELHI (AP) — Six people were burned to death and another 12 seriously injured early Wednesday when a bus caught fire in southern India, police said. The injured in the accident were hospitalized in Karanataka state, police official Srinivas Murthy said.

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — At least five people including a 2-year-old boy were killed and 15 others were injured Wednesday when a passenger bus rammed a stalled truck along the highway in eastern Philippines' Camarines Sur province at the start of the Easter week exodus of vacationers to provinces, police said. Police Supt. Vicente Marfori said the driver of the bus from Manila is under investigation at the police station of Libmanan town, where the accident happened.

SYDNEY (AP) — Britain's Prince William, his wife, Kate, and their baby son, George, arrived in sunny Sydney on Wednesday to the cheers of thousands of fans as they kicked off their tour of Australia. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge landed in Sydney after wrapping up a 10-day trip around New Zealand. They were greeted by various dignitaries, including Prime Minister Tony Abbott, before being whisked off to the city's famed Opera House.

BEIJING (AP) — His head covered in a black hood, lawyer Tang Jitian recalls being taken into a room and hearing the sound of a rope being pulled. The handcuffs behind him were jerked upward and soon he was dangling in the air. "I got hoisted with my head facing down, feet off the ground and butt in the air," Tang said in an interview with The Associated Press. "Five or six people were hitting me and kicking me. All I heard was 'thud, thud, thud,' throughout."

CHIANG MAI, Thailand (AP) — The bucolic, once laid-back campus of one of Thailand's top universities is under a security clampdown. Not against a terrorist threat, but against Chinese tourists. Thousands have clambered aboard student buses at Chiang Mai University, made a mess in cafeterias and sneaked into classes to attend lectures. Someone even pitched a tent by a picturesque lake. The reason: "Lost in Thailand," a 2012 slapstick comedy partly shot on campus that is China's highest-grossing homegrown movie ever.

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam has granted early release to two high-profile dissidents, bringing the number of democracy activists freed this month to three in what the government called a "policy of leniency." The unusual moves come as Hanoi is negotiating a free trade deal with the United States that is expected to help Vietnam's stumbling economy.

BANGKOK (AP) — As head of his village, Prajob Naowa-opas battled to save his community in central Thailand from the illegal dumping of toxic waste by filing petitions and leading villagers to block trucks carrying the stuff — until a gunman in broad daylight fired four shots into him. A year later, his three alleged killers, including a senior government official, are on trial for murder. The dumping has been halted and villagers are erecting a statue to their slain hero.

NEW DELHI (AP) — India's top court on Tuesday issued a landmark verdict recognizing transgender rights as human rights, saying people can identify themselves as a third gender on official documents. The Supreme Court directed the federal and state governments to include transgendered people in all welfare programs for the poor, including education, health care and jobs to help them overcome social and economic challenges. Previously, transgendered Indians could only identify themselves as male or female in all official documents.

TOKYO (AP) — Hundreds of pro-whaling Japanese officials, lawmakers and lobby group members vowed Tuesday to continue whale hunts despite a world court ruling that ordered the country to halt its Antarctic whaling program. Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told the meeting that Japan must protect its whale-eating culture and secure sources of whale meat. Japan as a maritime nation "has a policy of harvesting and sustainably using the protein source from the ocean, and that is unshakable," Hayashi said.

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